An interim report by a committee chaired by Vicki Huntington on revitalizing the Agricultural Land Reserve has been submitted to government.
Gathering feedback this year and having visited several communities, but not Delta, the independent Minister’s Advisory Committee for Revitalizing the Agricultural Land Reserve and the Agricultural Land Commission’s report is now in the hands of Agriculture Minister Lana Popham.
“I want to thank the committee members for their significant work engaging British Columbians in the development of these recommendations,” said Popham in a news release. “The ALC plays a key role in protecting the ALR and encouraging farming throughout our province. This independent report is an important contribution to the conversation we’ve been having in B.C. to build a strong and resilient agricultural sector for generations to come.”
The committee identified 13 recommendations for legislative and regulatory change, and four recommendations for action to protect the ALR. It also identified 14 key issues that are still under consideration for its final report.
The province also says the ministry will review the committee’s recommendations over the coming weeks to analyze the impacts of the recommendations.
The committee also submitted a “what we heard” report summarizing the findings from stakeholder meetings and public engagement held from February to the end of April of this year.
The committee was originally chaired by Jennifer Dyson but Huntington, one of several members who were appointed, took over that role when the province announced that Dyson was appointed the new ALC chair.
Huntington, a former city councillor and Delta South independent MLA, told the Optimist their meetings have been “very intense” as the committee continues its work until the final report is submitted this fall.
“We’ve been pleased to be able to provide a thorough series of recommendations to the minister. It looks at changes in legislation and for policy direction,” said Huntington. “It’s a good report and we hope the government receives it well and sincerely tries to consider implementing the recommendations. At this point, it’s the minister’s document and we can hope for the best.”
The committee notes the need for immediate legislative and regulatory change is focused on four targeted areas: protecting the ALR land base into the future, preserving the productive capacity of the ALR, improving governance of the ALR and supporting farmers and ranchers in the ALR.
Among the areas of concern raised is cannabis production in the ALR and well as the protected farm reserve being purchased for real estate speculation.
On the issue of land speculation, the committee’s report notes that as urban land prices increase and population grows, the pressure to develop agricultural land continues to build. Agricultural land is being taken out of production and investors and speculators are being allowed to exploit tax system incentives intended only for those who farm.
A Senate committee report released earlier this year also concluded Canada risks losing control over its own food security if governments can’t curb investment speculation farmland that has already seen property values skyrocket out of reach for the next generation of farmers.
Huntington’s committee notes the ALC “was not intended to be a rationing board tasked with regulating the slow release of agricultural land from the reserve or the conversion of the land base to support non-farm uses.”